Music of Africa: Role in Society
Africa is one of the largest continents in the world and made up of many regions. These regions are quite diverse, with different languages, different physical characteristics, and varied cultures. In the 17th-18th centuries, many people were imported from West Africa, while Central Africa was preferred during the mid-18th-early 19th century. In America, African people from different regions were mixed. To understand the affect of region on musical development, we must look at these regions and note their musical differences. Scroll down to the bottom of this page for some video performances and links to more performanes and rhythm lessons.
Not much is known except that many different types of instruments were used in this region. (idiophones, membranophones and chordophones)
There are some commonalities in both the use of music and particular musical techniques that are worth mentioning. Like many non-Western cultures, history is passed down through oral tradition rather than a written tradition. Story-telling, song, poetry, and dance are interwoven as a means of preserving information. Rhythm is important and often complex, and usually emphasized with idiophones and membranophones. Call and response is a common feature where a leader sings or shouts information which is responded to by the group. Non-Western scales use smaller increments of pitch producing quarter tones, and pitches which seem out of tune to the Western ear. Sliding between notes and bending pitch is common.
"Shoe Knock" by Bafut Martin
African song: Sagbohan Danialous
http://www.rhythmweb.com/africa/ Website with many links to African music performances
http://www.ancient-future.com/africa.html Site that contains instructions and samples of African rhythmns
DjeDje, Jacqueline Cogdell. “African Music to 1900.” In The Cambridge History of American Music, by Nicholls, David (Editor). pp. 103-134. Cambridge University Press (UK), 1998. (32 pages).
Handy, WC. “The Music of a Free People.” In Readings in Black American Music, by Southern, Eileen (Editor). pp.202-216. W.W. Norton and Company, 1971. (15 pages).
1. On the blog page, please write at least 300 words to answer the following question:
What do you think happened to their music once African were brought to North America? What were the other influences on their music? Did these influences serve to preserve or diffuse their style?